It is well known by the security community, among others, that Internet was designed without security. For that reason, it is important to understand that security is an addon feature to the Internet. Virtual private networks allow for secure communications through the inherently vulnerable Internet. There are many forms and flavors of VPNs. For the most part, companies use site-to-site or single-agent VPNs.
How a VPN protects your IP address and privacy
VPNs essentially create a data tunnel between your local network and an exit node in another location, which could be thousands of miles away, making it seem as if you are in another place. This benefit allows online freedom, or the ability to access your favorite apps and websites while on the go.
Here is a closer look at how a virtual private network works. VPNs use encryption to scramble data when it is sent over a Wi-Fi network. Encryption makes the data unreadable. Data security is especially important when using a public Wi-Fi network, because it prevents anyone else on the network from eavesdropping on your Internet activity.
There is another side to privacy. Without a VPN, your Internet service provider can know your entire browsing history. With a VPN, your search history is hidden. That’s because your web activity will be associated with the VPN server’s IP address, not yours. A VPN service provider may have servers all over the world. That means your search activity could appear to originate at any one of them. Keep in mind, search engines also track your search history, but they’ll associate that information with an IP address that’s not yours. Again, your VPN will keep your online activity private.
VPN privacy: What does a VPN hide?
A VPN can hide a lot of information that can put your privacy at risk. Here are five of them.
1. Your browsing history
It’s no secret where you go on the Internet. Your Internet service provider and your web browser can track just about everything you do on the Internet. A lot of the websites you visit can also keep a history. Web browsers can track your search history and tie that information to your IP address.
Here are two examples why you may want to keep your browsing history private. Maybe you have a medical condition and you’re searching the web for information about treatment options. Guess what? Without a VPN, you’ve automatically shared that information and may start receiving targeted ads that could draw further attention to your condition.
Or maybe you just want to price airline tickets for a flight next month. The travel sites you visit know you’re looking for tickets and they might display fares that aren’t the cheapest available.
These are just a few isolated examples. Keep in mind your Internet service provider may be able to sell your browsing history. Even so-called private browsers may not be so private.
2. Your IP address and location
Anyone who captures your IP address can access what you’ve been searching on the Internet and where you were located when you searched. Think of your IP address as the return address you’d put on a letter. It leads back to your device.
Since a VPN uses an IP address that’s not your own, it allows you to maintain your online privacy and search the web anonymously. You’re also protected against having your search history gathered, viewed, or sold. Keep in mind, your search history can still be viewed if you are using a public computer or one provided by your employer, school, or other organization.
3. Your location for streaming
You might pay for streaming services that enable you to watch things like professional sports. When you travel outside the country, the streaming service may not be available. There are good reasons for this, including contractual terms and regulations in other countries. Even so, a VPN would allow you to select an IP address in your home country. That would likely give you access to any event shown on your streaming service. You may also be able to avoid data or speed throttling.
4. Your devices
A VPN can help protect your devices, including desktop computer, laptop, tablet, and smart phone from prying eyes. Your devices can be prime targets for cybercriminals when you access the Internet, especially if you’re on a public Wi-Fi network. In short, a VPN helps protect the data you send and receive on your devices so hackers won’t be able to watch your every move.
5. Your web activity — to maintain Internet freedom
Hopefully, you’re not a candidate for government surveillance, but who knows. Remember, a VPN protects against your Internet service provider seeing your browsing history. So you’re protected if a government agency asks your Internet service provider to supply records of your Internet activity. Assuming your VPN provider doesn’t log your browsing history (some VPN providers do), your VPN can help protect your Internet freedom.
How can a VPN help protect against identity theft?
Identity theft occurs when thieves steal your personal information and use it to commit crimes in your name — like taking over or opening new accounts, filing tax returns in your name, or renting or buying property. A VPN can help protect against identity theft by helping protect your data. It creates an encrypted tunnel for the data you send and receive that’s out of reach of cyberthieves.
If your smartphone's Wi-Fi is enabled at all times, your device could be vulnerable without you ever knowing it. Everyday activities like online shopping, banking and browsing can expose your information, making you vulnerable to cybercrime.
A VPN can protect the information you share or access using your devices. That’s especially important when using a public Wi-Fi network, where a cyberthief on the same network could capture your login credentials and the credit card number you type in when you shop online.
You can’t prevent identity theft. No one can. Some security aspects — like a data breach at an organization where you have an account — are out of your control. But a VPN can help safeguard the information you send from and receive on your devices.
VPNs are great tools for achieving secure/compliant communication through unencrypted networks (Internet, WAN, LAN, etc.). Whether your organization builds or uses VPNs, security must be key. If you would like an assessment of your VPN environment, please contact us. We can help you build, plan, and/or set up a secure VPN environment.